I’ve cast on something new. My poor second sock and Fisherman’s Sweater sigh collectively in their relegation to the bench. Sorry guys – I got distracted by a couple of balls of yarn in my stash, and I gave in to the ADD.

Speaking of. I can’t focus on telling you about my new project until I post a few pics that have recently grabbed my (fleeting, fickle) attention in the way of inspiring future knitting or sewing ventures.

The other day I was driving along and saw a billboard with a super-cute cowlneck sweater – didn’t get a great look, but long enough of one that I saw it was a Gap ad. Here’s what I saw, revealed again to me in more detail later online:

Cowlneck pullover, at Gap

Cowlneck pullover, at Gap

Completely cute.  I’m such a sucker for cowls, I really really am.  I want everything to be available in a cowlneck.  So cozy, and so cool-looking.  This one is cotton knit, available in the color shown (“terrain”), charcoal, and heather gray.

“Cool-looking” is a bit vague (as well as juvenile, but there you go) – let me be more specific.  It looks sophisticated, to my eye; the way the fabric gracefully swirls into an artful arrangment, tossing light around, managing to look classy without trying too hard.  This Gap version is especially casual-looking with the i-cords and the short sleeves, paired with a striped long-sleeved tee.

 
If I were to knit this, I may want longer sleeves.  It’s a fine-gauge knit, which makes it even nicer-looking, but alas, more daunting to knit, which makes it less likely to happen.
 
I’m not saying I’m going to run out to the Gap to buy one ($34 isn’t hugely expensive, but…I’d rather get it on sale).  However.  They do have these available in Tall sizes, which is just so awesome, regardless of the fact that the sleeves aren’t actually long, such as to require a Tall size to make them longer for monkey arms.  The long torso would be fully covered, though – no inadvertent belly shots.  I feel like I should patronize Gap and Banana Republic more than my once-a-year average so that they keep the Talls in their portfolio.
 
Hmmm.  Maybe I need to buy one just for research purposes.  In case I get around to making a knock-off of my own, like in 30 years’ time.  Hmmmm.
 
All that joyful day-dreaming, just from one glance at a billboard.
 
In the not-quite-the-same-but-close category, the two designs below ended up under my gaze a few weeks ago via a banner on MSN.com.  Normally I don’t click on these things (I’m not usually that ga-ga about being fashion-forward), but what can I say?  I did.  These are definitely just eye candy for me as well:  the pretty little pictures clicked me through to Neiman Marcus, where my pocketbook doesn’t normally allow me to tread.  Anyhoodie:
 
 
Hooded cardigan, at Neiman-Marcus

Hooded cardigan, at Neiman Marcus

Sweater coat, at Neiman-Marcus.

Sweater coat, at Neiman Marcus.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Did someone say hoodie?  The first one, on the left, looks soooo cozy.  You can barely tell it has a hoodie from the front; not that there’s anything wrong with looking like you have a hoodie.  What I mean is that it has a very clean, simple look with straight yet soft lines on the front.  I like the hoodie-in-the-back part because it keeps the sweater from taking itself too seriously.  This kind of feels like a “business in the front, party in the back” cardigan – you know, like a mullet.  Except much, much, much less scary.
 
The price tag to obtain this look, however, at least from Neiman Marcus, is a wee bit steeper than a mullet.  This was priced at a few hundred bucks…cashmere blend, you see. 
 
The price of the sweater coat on the right was approaching two thousand dollars (not in Monopoly money, either).  I didn’t bother to take specific note for a wish list of any kind because I’m a normal person and I wouldn’t go spending 2 Gs on a sweater coat, no matter how pretty it is.
 
But since very few of us are actually going to go out and buy it, let’s just skip ahead to talking about how pretty it is indeed, because that part is free.  I know what you’re saying:  another cowlneck?  Well, that’s what I thought at first, hence the initial draw.  But the item description said it’s an “attached scarf”, which I can see, upon closer inspection.  This too, is knit in cashmere.  I don’t care if it’s cashmere or not (although if I had the money to burn – I’ll take the cashmere) – I just really really like the design.  In a more durable fiber, this would be a great go-to, wear-it-all-the-time staple.  I love the look, and it would be fairly easy to construct something similar on the fly, I think. 
  
The last design that caught my eye recently is one would be in the sewing vein.
 Tweed dress, at Neiman-Marcus

Tweed dress, at Neiman Marcus

 
Tell me, is this not the cutest little dress you ever did see? 
 
Not so much in a garden-party summer dress kind of way, but more in a polished, I’m-feeling-quite-pulled-together-today kind of way.  Now I’m not a size 0, which I’m sure is the size the model is sporting (my booty can only occasionally squeeze into a single-digit size…well, maybe less than occasionally; in theory, I guess it could, like if I quit eating for a couple of weeks), but I think this could be a flattering size on anyone.  Almost anyone.  The shoulders would have to be a bit broader than average to accomodate my frame, especially with the cap sleeves (which very often on me look like a mistake, perhaps the result of a good shrinking in the dryer).  But.  If I were to embark on, say, a sewing project (bringing my machine out of the hibernation it’s been in for the last year or so), I could make it to fit.
 
So.  The snaps above have been inspiring me as I think about projects on the horizon.
 
Back to the project I’ve cast on. 
 
I discovered Wendy Bernard’s website, Knit and Tonic, via MLE’s blog (MLE Knits – love Emily – get it?  M-L-E …emmm-elllll-eeeeee).  Wendy is the author of recently-released and already very popular Custom Knits, which MLE reviewed here, and I think looks like a great book.  It’s now on my Amazon Wish List, where all my dreamy pattern books hang out until I can afford to tell the boys over at Amazon to pick it off the shelf and send it – rescuing it for my exclusive perusal.
 
Wendy is great.  She’s got a daughter that’s only a bit older than my niece Maizy.  She calls her daughter Girlfriend, which I love.  Her writing is so much fun to read; you feel like you know her.  She’s fabulous yet not imtimidating.  Her photos of projects are well-considered and creative; often the photo seems more like a potrait being created, it so happens, whilst the model is engaged in some kind of activity fitting with the knit design (à la Rowan – you know what I mean).  Her snapshots make me feel like I’ve been pulled into her movie set.  [Director’s notes in the margin: Gorgeous yet down-to-earth woman enters stage left; she walks gracefully through her lovely, bright, inviting home, adorable daughter in tow.  She moves through to the garden, peering over her shoulder into the camera’s lens as the stunning knitwear she wears catches the glowing light of dusk, the scene thus enhanced by the play of light and shadows.]
 
In other words, she’s hot stuff.  Oh, and did I mention that these knits as featured are of her own design?  Yeah, that’s right.  She also has a few patterns that are free, which I’ll get to in a minute.
 
Needless to say, her blog is quite popular.  There’s a lot to look at.  I started with the links under her Photo Album section in the left sidebar, which drew me in with links called The Winners and The Losers: her buckets for categorizing FOs.
 
The Zephyr Gals, at ZephyrStyle.com

The Zephyr Gals, at ZephyrStyle.com, promoting the 2008 Race for the Cure

I discovered the Zephyr gals while stalking visiting Wendy’s site.  One look and I knew these two were my kind of chicas.  They are the starter-uppers of Zephyr Style, a site through which they offer great original knitting designs (I liked Green Gable, which I’d initially seen on Wendy’s blog). 

The Zephyr Style blog is located here, just in case, like me, you’d like to lurk for a long, long time get to know them.

 
My heavens, I keep getting distracted.
 
Here’s the start of my new project – hopefully off the needles very soon because it was only meant to be a quickie:
 
Beginning of Short Snort Girlfriend Tank, by Wendy Tan (KnitandTonic.com)

Beginning of Short Snort Girlfriend Tank, by Wendy Tan (KnitandTonic.com)

 
It’s Wendy’s Short Snort Girlfriend Tank, available for free on her Knit and Tonic site.
 
Simple pattern, but fun.  Upon seeing it I became inspired to find a loving knit-home for two balls of Louisa Harding Coquette that I’d picked up on clearance a few weeks back.  At 73 yards each, this amount wasn’t going to make much, but the wee sparkles were calling my name at the time.  Or rather, Maizy’s name, since she is the person I thought would enjoy them the most.  
 
I didn’t have quite enough to make the tank completely in Coquette, so I thought perhaps I’d stripe it by mixing in some run-of-the-mill white.  I swatched it and liked what I saw.  Even if it’d be a bit more work, I decided it would be worth it.
 
See how it sparkles?

See how it sparkles?

The gauge was spot-on with the two fibers held together, and pretty darn close with just the white (standard baby-weight acrylic left over from a previous project – the label is long gone).  I decided it would be funky to alternate fairly randomly between white, blue, and both colors combined.   The gauge with the skinny blue-sparkles fiber alone (a.k.a. Coquette) was a little peek-a-boo on my size US 6 needles, but a couple rows here and there seemed to give it a fun texture.  Why not?

So far so good.  I really like it.  The project’s not a major commitment at under 250 yds total, but little things can be fun.  Plus, they look bigger on a pre-schooler.  It may be getting a little cool in Colorado (where Maizy lives) to go around wearing only a tank, but she likes to layer, so she can work this look even through the snowy season.
 

I’d better blog off – time flies.  Especially when you spend a good chunk of your evening drooling all over the Anthropologie website (releasing pent-up desire after a brief and fortunately inexpensive trip there with Sissy B while we were together recently).

During that trip to Anthropologie, we got two of these mugs (on clearance, of course; my aforementioned pocketbook can’t handle that store on a regular basis, either).  The idea was that we could each have a cup, one half of the twin set, from which to sip our tea and think happy thoughts about our visit – later, when we’re miles apart.

(long, happy sigh)
 

Then Maizy, who upon fervent request and subsquent cautioning took on the task of carrying the bag with my cup in it, took a bit of a spill as we were walking to the car, bless her heart. She’d been multi-tasking: bag in one hand, my wallet in the other, and my phone – in the locked and off position – anchored in the crook of her neck as she carried on a very serious one-sided conversation with an imaginary version of a family friend.

Poor thing.  We had boo-boo scrapes on each hand.  Cup…was kind enough to break her fall. Not so much in one piece anymore, darn it.

Awwwww.  No biggie, I said.  Sissy B was sad.  Really, it’s OK, I said.  Small potatoes!  Sissy B later went back to the store, unbeknownst to me.  She returned with another bag containing another cup, all wrapped up in one piece.

“Some things just have to be remedied, sis.”

(warm smile, then muffled sniffle)

Love you, sis.

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I had brunch with my best friend over the weekend.  It had been a while since I’d seen her, and it made me sooooo happy to catch up. 

There are a boatload of reasons I couldn’t live without Lish.  She’s an amazing person.  Although we both live in California these days, we met far, far away in a land called New Jersey.  We both come from tiny towns in the same Midwestern state, although our paths didn’t cross until we were knee-deep in all things Jersey – back when we were wild-and-crazy twentysomethings. 

Familiar, anyone?

Familiar, anyone?

Both thoroughly white-bread and corn-fed at the time, with pale skin that could blind you in winter and (arguably more importantly) not much experience yet in the way of street smarts, we stuck out *just* a tad amongst the been-around-the-block-a-few-times Italian-American brew that is Northeastern NJ.  Our specialty was dancing in bars that weren’t actually set up for dancing, as well as harassing DJs until they would play “Sweet Caroline” for us (so good! so good!) and hurling ourselves toward the stage when local cover bands struck our fancy.

Since then we’ve taken our show on the road to any state, country, or continent that will let us in.  Our passports have taken a nice beating together, and it’s fair to say we’ve gained a fair bit of worldly wisdom (some days this is debatable).  One jet-set long-weekend trip took us to Portugal – my recollection includes a very sweaty hike up to the top of a Moorish castle and some guy named Paolo? Marco? Marco Paolo? – but that’s a story for another post. 

However (here comes the segue) – Portugal is the place that harbors the location that inspired my new knitting project.

I’ve had this project in my unofficial queue for a while now, but haven’t Ravelried* it yet because I’m kind of making it up as I go along.  I wouldn’t say I’m designing this sweater, really; I’m loosely basing it on a sweater I picked up a few years ago when I was at The End of the World

Ah, yes – good question.  Basically, this is a very, very windy place on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic at the the southwesternmost point in Europe.  Back in the day, before their little boats made it over to the Americas, the Europeans considered this the edge of the world: a horizon of churning water stretched as far as the eye could see, beyond which lurked the abyss.  Whodathunk there were a bunch of people across the pond, eh, guys?  Silly landlubbers.

 Fisherman's Sweaters

Fisherman's Sweaters

Right.  So when you’re at The End of the World, it’s not only a minor tourist attraction with a nice view and a story to go with it, but also an opportunity to freeze your patootie off.  Even on a bright, sunshiny mid-summer day like the one of my visit, it was nippy, with wind gusting in every direction.  I need to find the photo from that trip to properly illustrate this; the one in which I’m still shooting for glamorous with my pose, but all bets are off with my swirling hair captured with all split-ends pointing north – straight up, Paula.

It’s-Not-Really The End of the World was a draw for me as a side trip from the warmer climes of the beach far below mostly because of the “seaworthy sweaters” that my guidebook told me were on offer there.  I envisioned a weather-beaten crinkly-looking Captain Ahab, perched next to his ramshackle lean-to of a vendor stall, balancing on the leg that wasn’t his peg-leg, eyeing me suspiciously, ready for me to barter with him for one of his authentic salty-sea-smelling jumpers.  Of course, these would be hot off the needles; pleasantly-irregular creations that the missus was whipping up for him back down on the boat in his quarters.  Maybe after we shook on the deal for one of his wife’s crafts, he’d mutter “Arrrrrrr” gruffly under his breath as I walked away.  In my last glance back at him before forging ahead to the mighty sea, I might even catch him picking at his teeth (what remained of them) with his steel hook of a hand.

Hmmmm.

authentic

One word: authentic

Ahab turned out to be a Portuguese kid wearing a Yankees T-shirt and outlandishly shiny bling.  The missus was nowhere in sight, but I suspect she may have been kicking her feet up after hitting the “go” button on the industrial-grade knitting machine a few hundred times. 

Even though it was a teensy bit different than I’d imagined, there was still a nice display of sweaters that did indeed look seaworthy.  Machine-made with acrylic or not, these little fellas had led me here – I’d come a long way and was going to have a look.  Plus I was starting to get pretty cold, and they were looking mighty warm.

The Fisherman’s Sweaters weren’t incredibly ornate – just very simple Aran-inspired designs, most with a few cables and big cozy collars or turtlenecks; some with cheesy design patterns, some more plain and to the point, which were the ones I liked best.  Bulky knits, as you’d imagine, and in an array of earthy tones.  True, the cardboard boxes they came out of didn’t foster that handmade feeling, but I still decided I needed to take a sweater home with me (and/or immediately pull it over my wind-whipped mane and shivering blue lips).  I chose one in a heathery sandy color with a short zip at the top to keep out the wind, and proceeded to speedwalk out to the edge of the cliff for a gander before scampering back to the safe haven of the car.

When I bought this sweater, I wasn’t yet a knitter, and frankly, would have been shocked at the time to learn that I’d ever become one (such was my aversion to anything approaching a domestic art).  However, since I’ve picked up the needles, it’s crossed my mind that it would be fun to re-make this sweater with a nicer natural fiber and a few modifications to make it just right.  I’ve seen a host of patterns out there for something similar, but I’m going to give this a go with making my own measurements and building a pattern based on the gauge of the yarn I choose.

Driftwood

Color: Driftwood, 161

And that yarn is:  Rowan Plaid.  Poor Rowan Plaid.  Why discontinued, why?  Not that I’ve made anything from this yarn yet so as to form a strong attachment, but it just seems so well-loved by the knitting community at large.  I’ve had a few Ravelrers message me to ask if I’m willing to sell part or all of my Driftwood colorway, but I’ve had this stashed specifically for my Fisherman’s Sweater since the Rowan Plaid pattern book caught my eye with its chilly-seaside photo spread.  I grabbed the last of this colorway on sale at Jimmy Beans (after a flirtation with and eventual purchase of Sea Kelp for another project) when they were liquidating the last of their Plaid inventory last year.  So sad.  The fact that they were getting rid of it, that is – not the fact that I was lucky enough to snag it before it was gone!

Chilly.  Seaside.

Chilly. Seaside.

Bottom line – my baby’s now on the needles, and I’m lovin’ it.  No good light for a photo of my work yet, but will do this soon.

If it turns out as fabulously as I’m planning for it turn out, I’ll post the pattern for anyone who wants to give it a shot.  Easier to decide if you’re in this category, of course, after you’ve seen the final product.  When I’m finished we’ll decide how the original acrylic prototype – the photo of which I will hold in suspense for now (meaning I haven’t gotten around to taking it yet) – stacks up to my creation.  Here’s hoping this moves along without any tears, other fits of drama, or industrial-grade knitting machines.  Stay tuned, just in case.

 

 
*Oh, ravelried – don’t you just love the verb form?   I’m sure it’s been done before, but I’m now declaring “ravelry” as not only a noun but also a verb, in all its glory:

1rav·el·ry  \ˈra-vəl-rē\ noun —  website community where all the cool knit-kids hang out
2rav·el·ry  \ˈra-vəl-rē\ verb —  to enter the details of a knitting project, pattern, fiber, or accessory on one’s profile on the aforementioned website, so that everyone can see what you’re up to, or plan to possibly be up to in the future

 

Inflected Form(s):

rav·el·ring; rav·el·ried \ˈra-vəl-riŋ, ˈra-vəl-rēd\

 

Related:

rav·el·rer \ˈra-vəl-rər\ noun — one who ravelries